A page from the Nixon playbook.
The youngest you can be to have voted in the 1960 election between John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon is 83 years old. Consequently, most of the people who voted in that election are now gone.
But there are parallels between the 1960 election and the 2020 election. Nixon narrowly lost to Kennedy. Had he carried Illinois and Texas, he would have won. In both states, there was plausible evidence of vote fraud. (There were nearly 2,000 more votes cast in Fannin County, Texas than there were registered voters.)
Like Trump in 2020, Nixon in 1960 had defensible reasons to contest the election. He declined, saying it would be bad for the country. It was a statesmanlike decision that served Nixon well. He came back in 1968 to decisively win the presidency against Hubert Humphrey.
On December 8, 2020 – a month after the election – Texas filed suit in the Supreme Court contesting the administration of elections in Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Michigan and Georgia. I sat down and read the entire petition. That suit was eventually joined by 18 other states.
In a decision with which I vigorously disagreed, the high court refused to hear the suit. With that refusal, the game as it pertained to the 2020 election was up for Donald Trump. For the good of the country and for the good of his political future, he should have recognized that fact. In Nixonesque fashion, Trump should have accepted the unpleasant reality of 2020 and immediately turned his attention to the future. Had he done so, he would be in superb position to win the presidency a second time – particularly given the dismal performance of his successor.
Instead, his petulance sowed the seeds for the debacle of January 6. (And no, it wasn’t an “insurrection” nor was it an attempt to “overthrow the government,” as the media and the Dems keep insisting. It was a bunch of knuckleheads. Still, Trump was tarred by it.)
Since winning in 2016, Trump has needed to update his act. Trump 1.0 was an unlikely, unconventional, outsider, dark-horse candidate. He needed “schtick.” That schtick helped win him the presidency in 2016. But with him having now been president, we need Trump 2.0. Calling Jeb Bush “Low-energy Jeb” and calling Hillary Clinton “Crooked Hillary” worked six years ago. Calling Florida governor Ron DeSantis “Ron DeSanctimonious” week before last was merely sophomoric – especially because it was gratuitous and unprovoked.
Trump’s constant re-litigation of 2020 has grown tiresome, even to many of his supporters – and particularly to independent voters.
Trump had a successful presidency – arguably the most successful in a generation. From open borders to inflation to energy to the economy, things were much better during Trump’s presidency than they are today. In a head-to-head Trump policy vs. Biden policy debate, Trump wins hands down.
But elections are never purely about policy. Personality and style and comportment matter – particularly to those voters who can go either way. Among those voters, Trump’s self-inflicted wounds will be hard for him to overcome in 2024.